Monthly Archives: August 2011

A guest post from Gill

Being rather busy at the moment, I offered some guest blog post spots for people who had something to say about writing, reading, business, etc.  (do feel free to contact me if you have something you’d like to write about that would fit in with the general themes of this blog).  My friend, Gill Rose, has always been a stalwart supporter of Libro, hearing all about the business over a cuppa on Sunday afternoons. I already had it in mind to ask Gill to write something for me as she’s as keen on the English language as I am, so after she told me about her “romantic” break in Evesham which became somewhat … Libro-flavoured, I was thrilled when she wrote up her experiences for me. I suppose this is what happens when you’re friends with a proofreader, editor and blogger about language, although I feel the propensity was already there – Gill was, after all, the inspiration for my “fewer or less” post a while ago! Over to you, Gill!

I have always been a bit of an amateur proofreader.  I’m the one who goes around correcting the grocers’ apostrophes on notices at work (at a university, no less!), and other examples of poor SPAG (spelling, punctuation and grammar) are always picked up in the students’ work.  So Liz and I are kindred spirits.

However, I hadn’t realised how bad it had got until my husband and I went on a short break in a lovely hotel just outside Evesham.  This was courtesy of Groupon, a site which has saved me considerable sums of money recently.  We thought it would be a good chance to talk to each other; not usually easy, given our busy lives.

When we arrived we had afternoon tea, and I mentioned Liz’s ‘troublesome pairs’ project.  I knew John would be interested in this, as he finds the English language fascinating.  Well – this turned out to be great for Liz (lots of pairs to get her teeth into) but not quite so good for me, given my plan to talk about other things.  We spent the whole first evening discussing the project over a bottle of wine, working out suitable pairs to suggest.  John is like a dog with a bone when he’s interested in something, and he was certainly interested in this.  The entire few days were spent returning to this topic – while out walking, while (or do I mean ‘whilst’?) on the bus, while (or would ‘when’ be a better word?) looking around a church and at the breakfast/dinner table.  We went off at tangents, and plumbed the depths of etymology and linguistics.  My brain was buzzing; I certainly hadn’t anticipated this when first bringing up the topic.

It was an enjoyable break overall, but will now always be known in our house as ‘the troublesome pairs holiday’.  Thanks, Liz!

Thanks for sharing your experience, Gill – does anyone else have tales to tell about being the friend of a proofreader (or dare I ask?)


Posted by on August 31, 2011 in Copyediting, Guest posts, Troublesome pairs


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Index to the Troublesome Pairs

A Bank Holiday Special – as the list of Troublesome Pairs has been growing, I thought it would be a good idea to do an index to them.

Here it is! All the Troublesome Pairs, listed alphabetically, both (or all, in the case of trios) ways round.


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Assume or presume?

This request comes from Libro’s very own technical support department, otherwise known as Matthew. I don’t think it’s something he confuses himself, but he’s seen the confusion in action. Please feel free to submit your own suggested pairs to me as we go along, although it’s worth checking the list of all the posts here before you do that.

Anyway, on to assume and presume. Which have quite a subtle distinction.

To assume is to accept something as true without proof.

To presume is to suppose that something is the case on the basis of probability, or to take for granted.

So if you assume something is going to happen, you don’t have any proof and there may well not even be a probability that it is going to happen, whereas if you presume it’s going to, there is at least a probability that it will, or it has done in the past and you’re working from that.

Subtle? Yes. Clear? You tell me!

You can find more troublesome pairs here.


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What is localisation (or localization)? How do I localise documents?

I’ve been doing some localisation for some new customers recently and, mentioning this on my Facebook page, etc., I realised that this isn’t a well-known process.  So, for those of you who are interested, and people who might have documents they would like to work in different regions of the world (there’s a clue!), here’s a quick guide to localisation.

One of the dictionary definitions of ‘localise’ is “to make local in character”, and that’s basically what it’s all about. Say a website, or a brochure, or an advert, or even a novel, has been produced in America. Obviously, the language is going to be American, rather than British English. Eggplant, freeway and optimize, as opposed to aubergine, motorway and optimise. Now, sometimes, the company or publisher putting out that document will want to adapt it for different markets, so that the reader feels comfortable with the text and can understand it without any strain. If the markets are in countries that don’t speak English, then a translator will be called in to translate it for their country.  And if the markets are in countries that speak English, but slightly differently, then someone like me is called in to “translate” the text into British, Australian, Canadian (etc.) English.

It’s not just a matter of turning all the “ize”s into “ise”s. There are grammatical differences (“different from” vs “different than”), spellings (“colour” / “color”, “anaesthetic” / “anesthetic”), and terms (“pavement” vs “sidewalk” and so on).  Then there are trickier things – would a British reader understand immediately what “resumé boosting” or other very American terms mean? The aim, as with editing in general, is to make the reading experience smooth, so that the reader absorbs the words and their message, rather than being jerked into consciousness that they’re reading a created text, and coming out of the immersion.

Not every editor, or every translator, can do this work. It’s more like translating than editing, and I can do it because I’ve got particular and useful experience working for the UK office of an American company, where I dealt with the two Englishes almost every day for a good few years.  Add to that my editorial experience and general language skills, plus attention to detail which means making a list of the words I’m looking out for and making sure I change them all – and that’s why I’ve been praised and will be used again by the two companies I’ve completed localisation projects for so far.

It’s fun, too!

Read more about localisation as a career


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Inflammable or flammable?

There are some words which look like the same word but mean different things. Cleave can mean “stick together” or “separate into two or more parts”, for example. And there are other words which look different but mean the same. We’ve already come across “relative” and “relation” on this blog, which have one meaning which is the same, and “spelled” or “spelt”.

This pair is another that lots of people have asked me to write about. I think that most people do know that there’s something funny about them …

Because they mean exactly the same thing. As the Oxford dictionaries define them:

Flammable – easily set on fire

Inflammable – easily set on fire!  This one originates from the Latin “in-” prefix meaning into, thereby intensifying the word.  Not just easily set on fire; VERY easily set on fire. But I wouldn’t use this one as an intensified version of flammable. They just mean the same.

The word containing the negative or opposite idea, i.e. NOT easily set on fire, is non-flammable.

Oxford prefers the use of flammable, for clarity.

“The label on this nightie says it’s flammable – I’d pick the non-flammable one if I were you, so we can sit together safely in front of the fire.”

You can find more troublesome pairs here.


Posted by on August 22, 2011 in Errors, Language use, Troublesome pairs, Writing


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i.e. or e.g.?

I can’t honestly say that I’ve come across e.g. and i.e. being confused very much in my experience, but I’ve been asked by a couple of people to cover this one and I can but serve …

Both of these come from the Latin, and both are useful ways to say something in a short space (and one word, if you’re worried about word-counts!) although they tend to make the text look messy if they’re used too often, in my opinion.

First of all, e.g. – this abbreviation stands for “for example”, is used to introduce an example of whatever you’ve just been discussing, and comes from the Latin “exempli gratia”.  Bonus fact: don’t put it in italics and put a comma before but not after. “There are many power tools that can be used, e.g. drills, sanders and grinders.”

And i.e. means “that is” and again comes from the Latin; “id est”.  You use it if you want to explain what you’ve just said (rather than exemplify it). Another bonus fact – just like e.g., don’t put it in italics and put a comma before, but not after. “This project requires the use of power tools, i.e. those that require electricity to operate them.”

I would construct a sentence here containing both, but I don’t think it would look pretty and it certainly wouldn’t be recommended practice …

You can find more troublesome pairs here.


Posted by on August 19, 2011 in Errors, Language use, Troublesome pairs, Writing


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Networking and social media marketing

Today I’m going to talk about social media and live networking and why they’re similar in so many ways.  If you run a business, here are some hints about how they work and how you can also help fellow businesses to use them. If you have friends who run businesses, see how you can help them extend their reach and help more people.

Whether I’m talking to an individual at a networking event, tweeting a link to a blog post or updating my status on Libro’s Facebook page, I’m (hopefully) addressing two audiences.  The first is the person I’m speaking to. And the second is the people to whom they could potentially carry my message.

Networking events, co-working sessions, Twitter followers, Facebook friends – what they have in common is that each is a network.  Think of it like pyramid selling or chain letters but in a good way.  X knows 2 people who know 2 people each, that’s 4, each of those know two people and that makes 8 – even if some of them know each other, the network doubles each time.  Or rabbits. It’s a bit like rabbits, too …

These networks are more diverse and varied than you might at first think. Even if you’re close to someone in your life, history or profession, it is unlikely that your network overlaps with theirs completely.  Some examples …

  • My partner of 12 years – I have 353 friends on Facebook, he has 115, but we only share 62 of those people.
  • A Birmingham friend interested in the same things as me has 161 friends – and only 80 of them are shared with me.
  • An old University friend who is a freelancer like me has just 8 mutual friends out of a total of 239.
  • Similarly, Libro has 115 individual “likers” plus 8 businesses, so I make sure I share some of my Libro updates with my wider circle of friends.
  • It’s the same on Twitter – I’m pretty sure that not all my friends’ followers are following me (although it’s harder to extract the figures there), so if I retweet a business’s message, my 833 followers will see their message, and if they retweet mine, theirs will know about me.

When I’m at a networking meeting, I’m aware that the person I’m talking to is not always likely to want to buy my services.  But it’s very likely that, if I’ve made a good impression on them, they will remember me, and when they come across someone else in their social or business network who needs something that I offer, they will recall my details and pass my information on.  There’s lots of research on how to ensure that happens, but the general principle stands.

In the same way, if I tweet or put up a Facebook update about something Libro’s doing, the people who see it directly from me probably know all about what I do, or they might not need a proofreader or transcriber right now.  But if they “share” the Facebook post or retweet the tweet, who’s to know who out of their wider circle might find it useful?

Much of my work comes through personal recommendation, usually from previous clients, but also through networks of friends and associates.  This isn’t a plea to share and retweet my stuff, though … it’s a general reflection on how you can help your friends with businesses small and not-so-small to grow their networks and get known about.  Even large organisations need this – I was talking to someone from a museum just the other day, and he was bemoaning the lack of likes and shares on their Facebook page. Which is, by the way, good, engaging and interesting.

Hopefully this post has made some entrepreneurs, and most importantly their friends, aware of just how important the power of networks can be to their businesses.  Share a post or a tweet by a friend, a charity you support, a business you like … and someone in your network of contacts might find just what they need!

Postscript: Given the riots in the UK that happened just after I posted this piece, and the discussion on social media surrounding them, I thought I should say a few words on that subject. Social media – Twitter, Facebook and the like – are just another communication medium, like newspapers, letters and the telephone. Even if some newspapers print vile things, it doesn’t mean newspapers in themselves are dangerous and evil.  Poison pen letters don’t lead to calls for paper and pens to be banned. Personally, during the riots, I saw many good things come through Twitter, in particular. My local pub and other people in my area tweeted out reassurances that all was quiet. The police and the Resilience Team sent out messages of calm and information, and we retweeted those to help damp down unsubstantiated rumours. I heard about the cleanup campaign through Twitter and would never have known about it without that medium. So don’t worry that you’re helping perpetuate some kind of evil empire if you retweet a message about a decorators or editor – it’s just a communication channel!


Posted by on August 17, 2011 in Business, Jobs



Licence or license?

There are a few -c- vs. -s- word pairs kicking around, and I’m sure we’ll cover them all in the fullness of time.  We’ve already looked at “practice” vs. “practise”, and in fact this one both follows the same basic rules and bears the caveat that things are oh, so different in American English – so this post applies to British English only.

The difference again comes down to whether you’re using the word as a noun or a verb.

Licence is the noun (like our football practice).  So you have a driving licence, or licence to kill.  The second definition, which is actually packed into “licence to kill” with the first meaning, is freedom to behave as one wishes, without restraint.  “They took the wild music as licence to dance until dawn” – you can see that the meanings are very close.

License is the verb – to grant a licence to or authorise something.  “He is now licensed to drive a car – the DVLA licensed him and he has a driving licence.” By extension, we have a licensed premises (the licence to sell liquor has been granted to it) run by a licensee.

Just a little spelling quirk – if you’re licentious (disregarding rules; in the Oxford definition, rather sweetly, especially rules around sexual promiscuity OR grammar!) then it’s spelled like that, with the t.  Like a practitioner who practises something (in a doctor’s practice, for example).

You can find more troublesome pairs here.


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Saturday freelance chat – Andrew Donnelly

After a brief hiatus, the Libro blog is back with the next in our series of Saturday freelancer interviews. It’s been a difficult time for businesses and society over the past week, but one way we can pick ourselves up and drive the recovery forward is to get on with business as usual, ensuring we’re making money to put back into our local economies.

So, my next subject is Andrew Donnelly, who set up a mobile apps and websites development company that’s been running for just a year.  Andrew’s followed yet another path as he started his business, continuing to work as a contractor to bring in the money (so a bit like soft-launchers like me, who are still employed part-time, but a little bit more independent).  Andrew’s another 4N member and he talks about the value of networking – but in his case, being in the right place at the right time and embracing the opportunities offered by new technologies have kickstarted his new career.

What’s your business called? When did you set it up?

My business is called iphonemobileapp and has been set up for 1 year now. We specialise in the development of Apps and Websites to run on mobile devices.

What made you decide to set up your own business?

Having always been interested in mobile development, it was becoming frustrating working on mobile IT only in short bursts when the work came in, rather than full-time.

What made you decide to go into this particular business area?

It’s always been a big area of interest of mine; even before iPhones were launched I was interested in development on phones. When the iPhone came out, it was the perfect opportunity for me.

Had you run your own business before?

I had contracted for 7 years previously.

How did you do it? Did you launch full-time, start off with a part-time or full-time job to keep you going … ?

In between freelance work, I have taken contracts to keep the money coming in to pay the bills. When I have downtime, I’m still working, but on my skills, aiming to improve them more and more.

What do you wish someone had told you before you started?

That I could do it. Like everyone taking that big leap, it can be really scary at first. One year down the line, my confidence is high and the timing seems right for what I have done.

What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self?

Plan, Plan, Plan and more Plans; it’s all well and good having an idea, but as time went on, putting a business plan together helped me stay focused and gave me goals to achieve.

What do you wish you’d done differently?

Networked a lot more in the early days. Having just discovered networking, it’s a breath of fresh air to me and my business. Not so much in sales, but in terms of contacts and opportunities.

What are you glad you did?

Worked hard – it’s not a 9-5 job, it’s a 24/7 365 days a year thing. You have just got to keep at it.

What’s your top business tip? 

Trust your gut feeling a lot more than you do. It’s generally 99% right.

How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?

Still the same size, but now I have access to a lot of contacts to help me out.

Where do you see yourself and your business in a year’s time?

Hopefully on a much more solid footing, with a good client base. (Find out what he’s doing a year on!)

If you’re interested in knowing more, Andrew’s website is down at the moment for contractual reasons, but his phone number is 07795 511 083 and you can Tweet him.

Thank you for being my first app developer interviewee, Andrew! Click here for more freelancer chat.


Posted by on August 13, 2011 in Business, New skills, Small Business Chat


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Thank you to my fab clients

I just wanted to say a quick public thank you to my fab Libro clients.

Yesterday, I put aside my Libro work to go and join a team of volunteers who were cleaning up Birmingham after the rioting the night before. I was glad that I could move things around and get out there and help without having to ask a boss!

In the middle of the clean-up yesterday (and as soon as my Blackberry worked again!) I managed to pick up a few messages about new and ongoing jobs. I explained to each person, briefly, what I was doing, and that their work would get done, just not quite as quickly as they would  normally expect (no deadlines would be missed, of course).

Every one of them replied back with support and understanding. Libro is one person – me – and I do try to provide an ethical, honest and open service, including keeping people informed. Yesterday demonstrated that I have the right clients for this approach – I really appreciated their understanding.

Thank you.

By the way: Birmingham was quiet overnight; hoping it will stay this way now.

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Posted by on August 11, 2011 in Blogging, Jobs